There is tremendous controversy across the United States (and beyond) when a police officer uses deadly force against an unarmed citizen, but often the conversation is devoid of contextual details. These details matter greatly as a matter of law and organizational legitimacy. In this short book, authors Jon Shane and Zoë Swenson offer a comprehensive analysis of the first study to use publicly available data to reveal some of the context in which an officer used deadly force against an unarmed citizen. Although any police shooting, even a justified shooting, is not a desired outcome—often termed “lawful but awful” in policing circles—it is not necessarily a crime. The results of this study lend support to the notion that being unarmed does not mean “not dangerous,” in some ways explaining why most police officers are not indicted when such a shooting occurs. The study’s findings show that when police officers used deadly force during an encounter with an unarmed citizen, the officer or a third person was facing imminent threat of death or serious injury in the vast majority of situations. Moreover, when police officers used force, their actions were almost always consistent with the accepted legal and policy principles that govern law enforcement in the overwhelming proportion of encounters (as measured by indictments).
Noting the dearth of official data on the context of police shooting fatalities, Shane and Swenson call for the U.S. government to compile comprehensive data so researchers and practitioners can learn from deadly force encounters and improve practices. They further recommend that future research on police shootings should examine the patterns and micro-interactions between the officer, citizen, and environment in relation to the prevailing law. The unique data and analysis in this book will inform discussions of police use of force for researchers, policymakers, and students involved in criminal justice, public policy, and policing.
This book offers researchers, police practitioners, and policymakers a platform for organizational reform and an understanding of how the police organization creates stress, which contributes to reduced officer performance.
This book, based on an in-depth study exploring the relationship between perceived organizational stressors and police performance, indicates which features of the police organization generate the most stress affecting performance, and provides a model of organizational stress that applies to police agencies. While much stress research portrays the operation of policing as the greatest source of contention among officers, this research shows the ever-present rigid hierarchical design of the police agency to be a contributing factor of stress that affects performance.
Ideal for scholars, police personnel, and policymakers who are interested in how the police organization contributes to lower officer performance, this book has implications for policing agencies in the United States and worldwide.
While the proximate cause of any accident is usually someone’s immediate action— or omission (failure to act)—there is often a trail of underlying latent conditions that facilitated their error: the person has, in effect, been unwittingly “set up” for failure by the organization. This Brief explores an accident in policing, as a framework for examining existing police practices. Learning from Error in Policing describes a case of wrongful arrest from the perspective of organizational accident theory, which suggests a single unsafe act—in this case a wrongful arrest—is facilitated by several underlying latent conditions that triggered the event and failed to stop the harm once in motion. The analysis demonstrates that the risk of errors committed by omission (failing to act) were significantly more likely to occur than errors committed by acts of commission.
By examining this case, policy implications and directions for future research are discussed. The analysis of this case, and the underlying lessons learned from it will have important implications for researchers and practitioners in the policing field.
While confidential informants (CI’s) can play a crucial role in police investigations, they also have the potential to cause great harm if they are dishonest. The process by which police agencies qualify a CI to work and the strength of agency policy may be the source of the problem. This Brief examines the integrity problem involving CIs in police operations within the United States, provides an overview of pitfalls and problems related to veracity and informant integrity including the difficulties in detecting when a CI is lying, and compares the provisions of actual published police policy to the model CI policy published by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). The analysis shows a wide divergence between actual police policy and the national standard promulgated by the IACP.
The Brief provides policy recommendations for improving use of CIs that can potentially reduce or eliminate integrity problems that can lead to organizational accidents such as wrongful arrests and convictions, injuries or deaths. Some Courts have issued measures to ensure that information received from CIs is reliable by examining sworn testimony and documents related to their work. However, as this Brief explores, this judicial effort arises only after a police operation has taken place, and the use of force – even deadly force—has already been employed. The author proposes integrity testing beforehand, which would allow police to have a greater understanding of a CI’s motivation, ability and veracity when conducting law enforcement operations. In addition, there are aspects of police policy that can enhance CI management such as training, supervision and entrapment that can further guard against integrity problems. Although integrity testing is not flawless, it does interpose an additional step in the CI management process that can help guard against wrongful conviction and perjury that harms the judicial process.
This book was inspired by the original report empaneled by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey in Partnership with the Criminal Law Reform Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. Click here for the original report.
Virtually everything in policing is subject to measurement and, as such, should be measured. As Moore and colleagues (2002:142-143) poignantly stated, “even if citizens and their representatives do not demand accountability, measuring performance is still ethically and morally the right thing to do. When someone becomes a police executive, he or she explicitly assumes the responsibility for deploying a valuable, collectively owned asset. It is his or her moral and ethical duty not only to use that asset well but also to give an account of how the asset is being used so that the ‘owners’ of the enterprise can be satisfied that their purposes are being reliably achieved. These moral and ethical obligations are particularly weighty for public sector enterprises because the ‘owners’ cannot show their displeasure simply by selling their shares and exiting. Instead, they are stuck with the regime that is created and are forced to use their voice to ensure that their interests are reflected in the way the enterprise operates. For their voice to be effective, they must have accurate information about police performance…”
Measuring performance creates public value: “1) it is good management, 2) enhances the quality of services delivered, 3) what gets measured gets done, 4) aids in budget development and review, and 5) answers why public resources are being spent on these activities.” (Jankofsky, ND).
The book should be used as a reference text that is consulted periodically as performance measures are developed and analysis techniques are contemplated during performance management.
This monograph was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice COPS Office, Problem-Oriented Guides for Police. This guide on abandoned buildings and lots is part of the Problem-Specific Guides Series (#64, July 2012).
This guide begins by describing the problem of abandoned buildings and lots, factors that
contribute to the problem, and who is responsible for the problem. It then presents a series
of questions that will help you analyze the problem. Finally, it reviews several responses to
the problem and what is known from research, evaluation, and government practice.
Abandoned buildings and lots are a subcategory of the larger problem of physical disorder
in a community. This guide is limited to addressing the harms created by abandoned
buildings and lots. Related problems may require separate research and analysis.
The Problem-Specific Guides summarize knowledge about how police can reduce the
harm caused by specific crime and disorder problems. They are guides to prevention and
to improving the overall response to incidents, not to investigating offenses or handling
specific incidents. Neither do they cover all of the technical details about how to implement
specific responses. The guides are written for police—of whatever rank or assignment—
who must address the specific problem the guides cover
This monograph was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice as part of the Sentinel Events Initiative. Every error that occurs in our criminal justice system — every episode of failed justice — inflicts specific harms: An individual is wrongfully convicted, a criminal goes free, a victim is deprived of justice, a community is ill-served, and the agencies of justice emerge more tarnished and less trusted than before. Although it is imperative to address these specific harms, that alone is not enough. Errors must be recognized as potential sentinel events that could signal more complex flaws that threaten the integrity of the system as a whole.
The successes of sentinel event reviews in other professions inspire us to imagine a justice system that is constantly working to understand itself and its errors and is strengthening its processes by embracing a forward-leaning approach where shared responsibility prevails over finger-pointing and blaming. Yet we do not take this inspiration as an article of blind faith: NIJ’s commitment to testing, analyzing and objective evaluation remains uncompromised. The evidence may show that efforts to adopt a sentinel events approach in criminal justice are not feasible or effective, or it may reveal that these are indeed the first formative steps in a revolution that ensures a system that is fair, unbiased, and worthy of our highest ideals.